Meet Pamela Rogow, owner of W.P.M. Typewriter Shop and the adjacent Garden of Typewriters in Mount Airy.
• Beat box: “A typewriter cultivates you doing your best. You have an immediate tangible result you can’t easily delete and you have the rhythm of the production of your ideas. When you can align the tempo of your expression with the production of your thoughts and feelings, you really achieve the flow.”
• The strong Mount Airy type: “Often, people will come out of the garden and I’ll hear them say ‘This is what I love about Mount Airy. We don’t have anything like this in our neighborhood.’”
When Pamela Rogow turned the long-neglected outdoor space next to her Mount Airy typewriter shop into a 1,700-square-foot garden oasis a few years ago, she did so with one object in mind: a cello.
“I made it so that a cellist could perform here, which is ridiculously whimsical because I don’t play cello,” she said.
Today, those seeds of whimsy Rogow sowed in her garden have only grown.
When the pandemic forced her to close the doors of her W.P.M Typewriter Shop to the public last year, Rogow — a former museum exhibit and experience designer — created the most hyperlocal display of her career by introducing a rotating selection of her stock outside in the Garden of Typewriters.
Nestled behind a fence with a sign that reads “Garden subject to whim & weather,” nostalgia and nature meet in the typewriter garden for a unique experience in which greenery and machinery don’t just coexist, but complement each other.
Here, shiny black, blue, and red typewriters emblazoned with names like Voss, Corona, and Remington Rand are displayed on benches and tables alongside hydrangeas, peonies, and, perhaps, most appropriate, forget-me-nots.
A small gurgling pond in the back and the residents of the tower of birdhouses in the corner provide a natural soundtrack, while unexpected elements like toy monkeys at typewriters (a nod to the infinite monkey theorem), a chandelier of twigs and mini lights, and a mailbox shaped like a largemouth bass with vines flowing from its gaping maw spark the imagination.
It’s all very Mount Airy, a quirky, charming, leafy Philly neighborhood of stone houses, cafes, and co-ops that, as one Twitter user said, “feels like the set of a Wes Anderson movie.”
“I love when people walk in and they bring their friends and their neighbors and point out things,” Rogow said. “It is the sense of a village that contributed to making the garden. This is the center of a neighborhood that has a heart.”
A native of Los Angeles and a UCLA film school grad, Rogow moved to Mount Airy in 1994, after more than 20 years as a museum exhibit and experience designer.
During the span of her career, which includes 14 years as co-founder and owner of her own L.A.-based design firm, Rogow + Bernstein, Rogow estimates she produced and developed at least 100 major projects, including museums exhibits, river walks, and history shows like a Bicentennial exhibit at the Penn Mutual Tower in Philadelphia. Her clients ranged from the Smithsonian to UNICEF and her work took her around the world, from Denmark to Japan.
Rogow was working as a freelance consultant in L.A. when her sister in Philadelphia talked her into interviewing for a position as the vice president for public programming at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Center City in 1991, a position which she held for two years.
In 1994, Rogow bought the building across from Weaver’s Way Co-op on the corner of Carpenter Lane and Greene Street in Mount Airy that now houses her home and shop.
In previous iterations, the building was a bakery and an art studio. Under Rogow’s ownership, it’s housed a yoga studio, an “environmentally-sound” home goods store, and an electric bicycle shop. During her time at the intersection, Rogow also helped to create Greenfest Philly and the Mount Airy Village Fair.
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Around 2015, she invited a typewriter specialist she met to set up shop at her store a few days a week. Rogow told the man he could pay for rent and services in typewriters. When he moved on two years later, Rogow had 60 typewriters to her name.
So, in 2017 she opened W.P.M. Typewriter Shop and brought on a team to help maintain and repair the machines. At any given time she has 60 typewriters “ready to walk out the door” and close to 1,000 in “deep inventory.”
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She’s had typewriters that write in Japanese, Hebrew, Spanish, and Czech; a typewriter of only capital letters which was used for telegrams; a large-letter typewriter for TV cue cards; and several typewriters that write in cursive.
Rogow said her clients tend to be writers, academics, poets, parents, designers, generous gift-givers, and curious people.
Prior to the pandemic, people could come into her store to touch and test the machines. Now, all visits are by appointment only and take place in the Ga
rden of Typewriters. Rogow listens to what prospective clients want and then creates a curated collection of 12 to 20 typewriters, which she artfully arranges in the garden for them to see and test.
“It’s worked surprisingly well, better than I would have anticipated,” she said. “I love not having retail hours.”
While the full typewriter garden experience is by appointment only, Rogow said most days there is a small selection of typewriters in the garden, and she often leaves the gate open so passersby can pop in for a good dose of whimsy.
“A lot of this neighborhood is about sharing,” she said.
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• Check out the full We the People archive here.